CA regulators plan to do regional MPAs reviews only once a decade

posted in: Spotlight | 5

State officials originally pledged to conduct a regional review of the so-called “marine protected areas” created under the controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative every five years, but they have now reversed course and plan to do the reviews only once every 10 years.

George Osborn of the California Sportfishing League spoke at the California Fish and Game Commission meeting in December to challenge this change in plans.

“As anglers know, the State of California designated over 800 square miles of the Pacific Ocean off limits to recreational fishing – in large part due to overfishing by the commercial fishing industry,” according to Osborn. “However, the State said these marine protected areas would be temporary and after five years, they would conduct a regional review to determine when they open to recreational angling once again.”

“Well.. that was then. Now, they want to extend this review process out another 5 years! Why? They don’t have the money,” he said.

In objecting to this move, Osborn asked, “When can recreational anglers again drop a line into an area now closed?”

“That’s not what the fishermen were told when the marine protected areas were adopted by the Commission,”added Osborn. “They are very disappointed in this change of plans.”

The Commission voted to notice the Master Plan for the February meeting, when it will be discussed. Then the Commission will act upon the plan in April.

“I’ve been told personally by commissioners who are no longer on the commission and commissioners still on the commission that they couldn’t wait for the day to show the fishermen that the MPAs have worked and closed areas could be opened again to recreational anglers,” he stated.

Osborn believes that this latest action confirms the suspicion of anglers during the process that once the “marine protected areas” (MPAs) were put into place, the Commission and CDFW had no intention of opening them again.

The Initiative’s Master Plan was developed by the Department and adopted by the Commission, noted Osborn.

“The original plan provided for five year regional reviews of marine protected area. The new plan calls for only a statewide review every 10 years,” emphasized Osborn.

Commission’s Executive director said five year reviews would be “huge workload” and “huge expense”

However, Sonke Mastrup, the Exective Director of the Commission, who recently resigned from his post after I interviewed him in December, claimed the Master Plan “is not really a new plan.”

“The Commission adopted a draft master plan around 2008 that was used to help build the network,” he explained. “Now that they’ve finished building the network, the plan has been redrafted to be an implementation plan for the existing network. We built them – now we have to refocus from the building to maintenance of the MPAs.”

“The question is what kind of maintenance will we do and how often do we have to check the status of how we are doing,” Mastrup noted. “The original draft plan was to review the MPAs every five years.”

“But we built the network not as one, but as four regions. If we reviewed each region every five years, we would be going through one of the four areas almost every year. It would be a huge workload and huge expense for the state,” he explained.

“When you talk to the scientists, you’ll find that recovery is a very slow process,” Mastrup said. “The reality is: How frequently are the reviews going to be so that we learn something that is actable by the commission?”

“There would have to be information to change it, based on cause or pursuant to need. I don’t foresee these MPAs changing quickly and there would have to be something sigificant for something to change an MPA, based on the goals and objectives of each region,” he noted.

For example, Mastrup said that if a marine protected area isn’t producing bigger fish, the scientists would have to ask: Why is it not producing?

“The MLPA contemplated that if particular MPAs are not doing what they’re supposed to do, then getting rid of them or modifying them would be options,” said Mastrup.

Commission’s direction is uncertain with three resignations

In addition to Mastrup resigning, two Commissioners, Jim Kellogg and Jack Baylis, also resigned suddenly, leaving the Commission in disarray. Kellogg, the senior and most experienced member of the Commission, resigned because of his frustration with what he perceived as the anti-science – and anti-fishing and hunting – direction the Commission was headed.

“I’m leaving pretty much out of frustration,” Kellogg said in an interview, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “http://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Upheaval-at-Fish-and-Game-highlights-shift-in-6759859.php

Kellogg, known for his fairness and independence while serving on the board for 14 years when he resigned on December 31, was the longest-serving member of the Commission.

“I’m just tired of being the only one fighting the fight for the hunters and fishers,” he said. “The first 12 years I won most of the battles, and the last couple of years I lost almost every battle.”

The three Commissioners remaining on the Commission are Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Anthony C. Williams, and Eric Sklar. The future direction of the Commission, including their position of the controversial MPAs Master Plan,  is very uncertain at this time.

Scientists can’t see much change on Central Coast due to MPA status

One thing is for certain: the MLPA Initiative has to date not yielded the results proponents hoped for in the one area studied so far, the Central Coast.

Dr. Rick Starr of California Sea Grant and Dean Wendt, dean of research at Cal Poly, led a team of marine researchers and more than 700 volunteer fishermen to sample fish within and outside of four protected areas: Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area, Point Lobos, and the Piedras Blancas and Point Buchon State marine reserves.

The conclusions of the study contrast with the claims of many MPLA Initiative Advocates that the creation of reserves would result in dramatically improved fish populations soon after implementation.

In the seven years of data examined, “We didn’t see much change that could be attributed to the MPA status,” Starr said. (https://caseagrant.ucsd.edu/news/study-for-central-californias-marine-protected-areas-recovery-will-take-time)

As fishermen pointed out in meeting after meeting, the entire continental shelf of California, the Rockfish Conservation Zone, was already the largest defacto marine protected area on the West Coast before the first MPA created under the MLPA Initiative went into effect in 2007. In addition, California already had the strictest fishing regulations anywhere on the planet before the MPAs created under the MLPA Initiative became effective.

The Rockfish Conservation Zone and the strict fishing regulations, along with favorable water and forage conditions, are undoubtedly the main factors behind the rebound of lingcod and rockfish populations in recent years – not the MPAs.

You can read the MPAs Master Plan at : https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/MPAs/Master-Plan

You can offer public comments by emailing: fgc@fgc.ca.gov

MLPA Initiative’s many flaws still not addressed

As I have pointed out in article after article, the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act Initiative was one of the most controversial environmental processes in California history. The Initiative did not fully implement the law as written, since it failed to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, oil spills, military testing and all human uses of the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

The process was characterized by numerous conflicts of interest, including the chairing of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast by a Big Oil lobbyist; the adoption of terminally flawed science that failed to include scientific data from the Yurok and other Tribes; and the violation of tribal gathering rights in State Marine Reserves.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the lead lobbyist for fracking, offshore drilling and other environmentally destructive oil industry operations in California, not only chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, but she sat on the task force to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

For more information about the MLPA Initiative, go to:  https://intercontinentalcry.org/the-five-inconvenient-truths-about-the-mlpa-initiative/